Are you following the right protocol to take optimally care of your joints?
After all, free running, parkour or other intense sports, such as calisthenics, mountain biking, gymnastics, rock climbing, martial arts, etc., can all be very hard on your joints.
I’m especially “concerned” about people that do free running and parkour since I myself love the sport and doing all the crazy things that come with it. We’re jumping from high platforms, taking a lot of impact on each fall and our joints take a major hit each time.
Yes maybe we can go on for a couple of years, but then we start to get stiff and don’t always feel in the mood. Why? Because we start to ache, have low energy and don’t feel “young” anymore.
Have you ever heard someone still young say: “I’m not that young anymore.” Have you ever said that yourself?
What I want to share with you is how to look after your joints. Running, jumping, flipping and tricking is fun, so why don’t we want to be able to do it for more than just our youth.
In this article, I want to share with you supplements, topicals, devices and dietary hacks that will speed up joint recovery and prevent destruction.
The health of your joints hangs in the balance in anabolism and catabolism. When we’re building muscle, we’re anabolic. When we don’t train and lose muscle, we go into a catabolic state.
Similarly, the joints are also in a continual process of self-renewal, which is very slow. A balance between anabolism and catabolism.
When catabolism dominates, slowly we start to lose our joint integrity, our explosiveness, desire to train and our spunk. Training and doing jumps from high areas induce both anabolism and catabolism. But too much training, inadequate recovery, and nutrition can cause an excess of inflammation, which is catabolic and will break down the joints.
Before long, your joints aren’t what they used to be and you can’t train daily anymore.
The thing with joints is that they take much longer than muscles to show signs of degeneration and they also take much longer to regenerate, mostly because of a lack of blood flow in the bone and joint.
I’m not going to say train less to minimize the catabolism (although training smart is a good idea), but rather to maximize your recovery strategy to optimize anabolism.
Inflammation is one of the greatest factors the initiate joint breakdown. If we stop inflammation, we can halt breakdown and initiate and accelerate healing.
Here we go.
Use topical magnesium on your joints
Inflammation stops the anabolic healing process. Topical magnesium on the joint stops the inflammation and allows stem cells to multiply, which aids in joint regeneration.
Since our soil is majorly depleted in magnesium and most people live on sweets, chips, and other junk, their magnesium intake is very low (if not supplemented). Magnesium is involved in over 500 processes in the body and is essential for joint health. Oral magnesium can also be helpful, but applying magnesium topically right on the joint might be the most beneficial.
I’d start with 100mg elemental magnesium per leg. Most topical magnesium supplements have low absorption rate through the skin, but the company IdealabsDC created a breakthrough product which significantly increases the absorption of magnesium through the skin.
Check out Magnoil for more info on that product (I’m not affiliated with that company).
This has first been discovered by Robert Becker. He was able to regenerate amputated limbs on certain animals by applying a current to the limb.
The trouble is not finding evidence, but rather finding an effective device that can serve this purpose.
A trick that Ben Greenfield does when he wants to speed up recovery is to use an electric muscle stimulation (EMS) device (such as this one), apply topical magnesium and then put an ice pack on the joint and do that for about 30 minutes.
Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy
PEMF is another potent way to stimulate regeneration. PEMF has been shown by research to stimulate joint regeneration by:
“chondrocyte proliferation, differentiation, and extracellular matrix synthesis by release of anabolic morphogens such as bone morphogenetic proteins and anti-inflammatory cytokines by adenosine receptors A2A and A3 in both in vitro and in vivo investigations” (R)
This has been studied in humans with positive evidence that it’s effective. One such device, the I-ONE, has been shown to prevent degeneration of articular cartilage and downregulate the synthesis and release of proinflammatory markers in the synovial fluid. The findings suggest that I-ONE therapy may be used in humans to control joint inflammation and to stimulate cartilage anabolic activities, finally resulting in chondroprotection (R).
The only issue is the duration that it has to be applied. The duration used in research ranges between 1-12 hours daily.
However, there are PEMF devices that you can put under your mattress that can send healing frequencies through the necessary areas all night long. Such devices are sold by EarthPulse. It’s a bit pricey, but it works great for athletes to speed up their recovery.
When setting it up, put the electromagnets under the mattress (between the base and the mattress) under the areas that hurt.
You can use it daily for a prevention strategy or as a healing aid. Keep in mind, prevention is better than cure.
Vibration platforms have been effective at lowering inflammation in muscles and joints. Whole-body vibration may slow the progression of cartilage loss by reducing catabolism and initiating anabolism and augmenting the thickness of the chondrocyte layer (R).
Alternatively to a whole-body vibration platform, you can use a handheld device (such as this one) around the joint to induce similar benefits (R).
Blood flow restriction
Blood flow restriction has been around for a while now and is highly effective for rehabilitating joints. You can buy expensive bands on Amazon, or simply tie a piece of cloth/band around the upper area of your legs to stop the blood flow. Don’t do it too tight so that your leg turns purple though.
Once you/ve restricted the blood flow to your legs, you can do leg exercises such as squats or lunges to create mechanical stress and to pump blood into the muscle.
This style of training increases peripheral stem cell count and creates a massive amount of testosterone, growth hormone and other growth factors locally in the restricted limb which will have a healing effect on the joint (R). The benefit of this style of training is that you don’t even have to go heavy. You can use a load of 30% of your 1RM and the get benefit as if you’re using 80% of your 1RM. Since the weight that you’re using will be so light, you won’t experience any joint degeneration and still get the anabolic joint stimulation from the exercise.
Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) a.k.a. Cold laser
A lot of research about light has been done over the last couple of decades showing a host of benefits for skin, muscle, metabolism, fat loss, recovery and joint repair and much more (R).
Most common these days are the red light panels, that emit red light as well as infrared light, at a wavelength of ∼670nm and ∼810nm.
The cold laser is very effective at speeding up healing, reducing scar tissue and restoring tissue to youthful levels. The wand is quite reasonably priced and definitely an investment to make if you plan on punishing your joints for many more years.
Although the other strategies might be more potent, a mylar blanket is the cheapest and easiest to do, yet most annoying as well. You can put the mylar blanket under your fitted sheet so that it can redirect the infrared that you emit back to you. The only downside is that it’s noisy.
Lower your omega 6 intake
Most people be like, omega what? Maybe you only heard about omega 3s’ and fish oils that are supposedly good. Omega 6 is not and it’s highly inflammatory. The more omega 6 you have in your diet and body, the more potential for inflammation there is. If these fats are not protected by anti-oxidants or by COX 1 & 2 enzyme inhibitors, then they create chaos.
Omega 3s are thought to balance out the omega 6 and lower inflammation, however, they too are highly unstable and can create inflammation if they too are not well guarded by antioxidants.
But do your think candy, chips, subway, Macdonalds, pizza, KFC, etc., are rich in anti-oxidants? Nope. Most of these foods contain absolutely no antioxidants and massive amounts of omega 6.
The key isn’t just to supplement fish oils but to eliminate these toxic fats from your diet. The best way to go about that is to replace all processed foods with natural good tasting food, such as red meat, milk, fruits, gelatin, eggs, etc.
Foods rich in omega 6 include:
- Most man-made foods, which include cookies, chips, sauces, baked goodies, pastries, pizzas, burgers, mayonnaise, salad dressing, etc.
- Soy oil
- Canola oil
- Hemp seed oil
- Sun and safflower oil
- Peanut oil
- Sesame seed oil
- All nut and seed oils, except olive, macadamia and coconut oil
All those “heart-healthy” oils are highly inflammatory. The best way to protect yourself against their inflammation is by using vitamin E. A mixed tocopherol would work best, which contains alpha, beta, delta and gamma tocopherol. I prefer a wheat germ extract for my vitamin E. Again, IdealabsDC has a very high-quality product called TocoVit, which is vitamin E extract from wheat germ containing no omega 6 fatty acids.
Eat enough calcium
Calcium is a very important mineral in the body, not only for teeth and bone, but also for proper energy production, muscle contraction, cell signaling, joint health, etc.
Parathyroid hormone (PTH), secreted from the parathyroid gland, aids in the calcium balance in the body. When dietary calcium is low, PTH is secreted to increase calcium absorption in the gut and to mobilize calcium from the bone. When PTH is elevated for too long, it can lead to brittle bones, chronic inflammation, joint degeneration, arterial calcification, etc.
With that said, you can understand why dietary calcium is so important. Dietary calcium keeps PTH low and as a result, keeps inflammation low and helps with joint integrity (R).
Good dietary sources of calcium include dairy, eggshell calcium (powdered eggshells) and leafy greens.
Vitamin D is another important part of this puzzle. People with low vitamin D stores are much more prone to joint degeneration that those with higher vitamin D (R, R). Vitamin D isn’t just a vitamin, but can actually act as a steroid. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium and the suppression of PTH.
Now you might think that you’re getting enough sunlight because you’re out all day. But are you wearing long sleeve clothes and wearing sunscreen? If so, then chances are that your vitamin D stores might not be optimal. This is worsened if you’re living in a northern hemispheric country.
Vitamin K2, another fat-soluble vitamin similar to vitamin D, is also essential for joint health (R, R). Similarly to vitamin D, people low in vitamin K2 are more prone to joint deterioration than people with high vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 is necessary for the proper utilization of calcium, making sure it goes to the right places and not into the arteries.
Vitamin K2 can also have a hormone-like effect in that it’s able to increase your androgens, which are also anabolic to your joints.
Use anti-inflammatory compounds
Inflammation promotes joint catabolism, so lowering inflammation can prevent excess degeneration. The excess inflammation can be due to overuse, such as making a lot of big jumps, not landing flips correctly and so on.
But that is not the focus here. The focus is to lower the inflammation.
A few good candidates are:
- Vitamin E – inhibits inflammation driven by omega 6 polyunsaturated fat
- Aspirin – inhibits inflammation driven by omega 6 polyunsaturated fat
- Turmeric with capsaicin (R)
- Boswellia serrata (R)
- Ginger (R)
- Polyphenols in plants, found in cocoa powder, berries, apples, oranges, and other colorful fruits and vegetables (skip the veggies and eat the fruit would be my approach) (R)
- Boron (R, R) – about 3-6mg daily should be a good dose. Raises are a good source of boron. I supplement Borax occasionally for boron.
- Terminalia chebula fruit (R)
- Magnolia (R) – it works great against anxiety and stress as well
- Lithium (R)
A good way to support your joint health is to use anti-inflammatory supplements, such as those mentioned above combined with proteolytic enzymes, such as bromelain and/or serrapeptase (R). The proteolytic enzymes are biological catalysts that speed up chemical reactions in the body.
One such product with anti-inflammatory compounds and proteolytic enzymes is Kion Flex.
Optimize your androgens for joint regeneration
Androgens such as DHEA and testosterone, created in the adrenals and testes respectively, are highly anabolic to the joint tissue.
Since testosterone is illegal (and I don’t use it myself), I don’t have a vendor recommendation for that, but you can get DHEA almost anywhere. I’d start with a small dose of about 10mg daily for maintenance to keep my joints in tip-top shape.
If you are able to source testosterone, even as low as 5mg topically should have a potent effect to protect and preserve the quality of the joints.
- How to maximize your testosterone levels
- Increase free testosterone
- Increase androgen receptors
- How to interpret your testosterone test results
- What foods to eat to increase testosterone
- 29 Ways to increase your DHEA
Try topical progesterone
This might come as a surprise to many, but progesterone isn’t just a female hormone. Males are also able to create progesterone in the testes, brain, skin and adrenals.
Inflammatory and catabolic promotors include inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), cortisol, TNFα and IL-1β.
These factors stimulate inflammation and ultimately the destruction of your joints.
Progesterone is able to inhibit all of them. You might know that cortisol, in the form of hydrocortisone, prednisone, etc., is usually prescribed to manage inflammation right? Well, progesterone has been shown to be equally effective at lowering inflammation, but to be anabolic to joint tissue instead of catabolic (R).
Research shows that as little as 15-20mg can be used topical daily for joint regeneration (R). IdealabsDC (product is progestene) and HealthNatura both provide excellent progesterone products that can be applied topically.
Lower endotoxins and excess nitric oxide
Nitric oxide is synthesized through three enzymes, namely endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), neuronal NOS (nNOS) and inducible NOS (iNOS).
Once iNOS becomes induced, it can create 1,000 times more NO than the other two enzymes. NO acts as a signaling molecule, but in high amounts, it induces oxidative stress and can react with other free radicals, namely superoxide, to create the highly reactive peroxynitrite.
Point being, iNOS is highly upregulated in the degenerating joint. Things that promote it are endotoxins, infection and inflammation.
Endotoxins are naturally present in the gut and are produced by gram-negative bacteria. An overgrowth of gram-negative can produce an excess of endotoxins, which is highly toxic to the body.
Endotoxins are naturally absorbed in small amounts where it is detoxed by the liver. When absorbed in large amounts, it overwhelms the detox capacity of the liver and creates inflammation everywhere in the body including the joints, where it inhibits cartilage synthesis and promotes breakdown (R).
First on the list to fight back, we want to make sure we don’t have an excess of gram-negative bacteria. These bacteria can start to multiply out of control when we’re on a poor diet consisting of mainly man-made foods.
Secondly, we want to prevent endotoxins from being absorbed in too large quantities. This can happen due to leaky gut. Leaky gut doesn’t just occur in fat sick people but it can occur in the very fit as well.
Training is the heat and depleting your glucose stores in the body induces leaky gut which leads to an excess absorption of endotoxins. Things like colostrum and zinc carnosine can reduce leaky gut induced by training in warm weather, but the cheapest and easiest way to prevent leaky gut from happening is not to overexert yourself and to keep eat carbs before training.
I know that once you’re in the flow you’re not thinking of sipping on something glucose, but rather making that next jump. The best thing to do is to make sure you’re eating some form of carb before training, with fruits and fruit juice (preferably freshly squeezed/juiced 100% fruit juice) probably being the best because it digests so fast, and then do you’re training. Instead of drinking water during your training, drink fruit juice. The continual ingestion of carbs will help to keep the gut lining sealed, preventing an excess absorption of endotoxins.
Additionally, colostrum might be a good supplement to add in additionally since it can help protect the gut lining, boost your immune system, lower inflammation, etc.
Lastly, we can inhibit the endotoxin receptor, TLR4, which will prevent the inflammatory and catabolic effect of endotoxins. TLR4 antagonists include pregnenolone, vitamin B2, glycine, lidocaine, progesterone, vitamin A and vitamin D. Interestingly, egg whites bind to endotoxins and can prevent their absorption. So in addition to fruit juice intake, a milk smoothy with raw eggs can also be a great addition to the diet.
Since we’re talking about milk, let’s talk about protein.
Make sure you’re eating enough protein
Honestly, I don’t think that most freerunners or parkour enthusiasts eat enough high-quality protein. Since our bodies comprise mostly of amino acids, eating protein is the best thing you can do for regeneration.
Milk intake, which is a great source of protein, calcium and other vitamins and minerals, is inversely associated with bad joints (R, R). The higher milk intake goes, the better your joints will be. If you do get acne or other forms of inflammation, it might be that that milk brand is of bad quality. Some people just can’t tolerate cows milk and do much better on bison, camel, sheep or goats milk.
Certain amino acids found in the protein is more important than others, for example, glycine, proline and lysine. They play a special role in collagen structure.
Research shows that high dose glycine lowers inflammation and aids in joint regeneration (R). Gelatin is the richest source of glycine. It would be a good idea to supplement 15-30g of gelatin on a daily basis to provide the necessary amino acids for joint repair. If you don’t want to go the gelatin route, you can try 5g of glycine powder x3 daily instead. Glycine also happened to be one of the limiting amino acids in glutathione synthesis, our master antioxidant in the body. Oxidative stress and inflammation are catabolic to the joints and glutathione can aid in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, thus protecting the joints.
But it’s not just the glycine that’s beneficial, but protein in general. Protein is anti-inflammatory and prevents degeneration of the joints (R). One thing to keep in mind though is that protein sources, such as beef and chicken, are high in phosphorus and will increase PTH if not balanced with calcium.
Other foods sources high in phosphorus include grains (all grain products), legumes and beans.
A good amount of protein is at 1.6g/kg of bodyweight. Even though you’re not necessarily lifting weights, cardio and high impact sports significantly increase the requirements for protein.
Use carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is mostly thought of as a waste gas which is responsible for global warming. That is luckily not true at all and is very beneficial to the body. CO2 aids in tissue oxygenation and is potent anti-inflammatory.
So how can we benefit from CO2 locally on the joints? Apart from maximizing CO2 production through our metabolism and good thyroid function, we can buy CO2 in a canister and fill a bag that is strapped around our joints with it. It is as complicated as it sounds. Some people get into a giant bag and tape it closed around their necks and pump the whole bag full of CO2. The CO2 then diffuses through the skin and exerts its anti-inflammatory effects in the body. This is called bag bathing.
Although this strategy is beneficial, it might be too complicated for most to implement, so here is an alternative.
When taking a hot bath, dump about 1lbs (400g) of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) into the bath. The bicarb will be absorbed through the skin and converted to CO2 inside the body.
This brings us to our next point.
Try heat therapy
Heat has been shown to promote blood flow and speed up recovery. What better way is there to do heat therapy than to take a hot bath. As mentioned above, you can add sodium bicarbonate to the bath to increase CO2 and you can also add Epsom salt, which is magnesium sulfate. Magnesium flakes are a good alternative to Epsom salt, but not superior.
Additional heating tricks include a bean bag heated in the microwave, a heat lamp used for chicken breeding (also called a reptilian lamp which is dirt cheap) and/or sauna which has also been shown to be healing (R). I prefer the heat lamp (it’s super cheap) as it emits red light on top of radiating out heat.
BPC (body protecting compound)-157 (R). Your body actually already makes this peptide in your own gastric juices in very small amounts, where it serves to protect and heal your gut.
This peptide a relatively common peptide used by bodybuilders and sport enthusiasts alike. It’s currently not illegal even if you compete in tested sports. It greatly speeds up recovery of muscle and joints. Although it can act systemically, people actually report better effects when they inject it locally at the trouble area.
Most people report the best effects when injecting 250-350mcg twice daily for a total of 500-700mcg daily close to the injury. Usually for one to two weeks or until the pain goes away.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy – This procedure calls for injecting some of your own blood after it’s been removed and been centrifuged down to isolate the platelets – the part of the blood that contains all the healing factors.
Prolotherapy is where a substance, such as dextrose (it can be anything really) is injected at the site of injury. That serves the purpose to irritate the area which stimulates inflammation and blood flow. This is needed to initiate recovery in joints where recovery hasn’t taken place yet or is super slow.
Hyaluronic acid can help lubricate and cushion joints and reduce pain. Hyaluronic acid is naturally present in joints where it serves the function of providing joint lubrication and absorbing shock while also promoting chondrocyte proliferation/differentiation.
It doesn’t only have to be injected, but it can also be taken orally where it’s absorbed in the intestine and released into joint tissues.
Stem cells. Very effective, but expensive.
Optimize thyroid function
Thyroid hormones are responsible for all regeneration and maintenance in the body. If thyroid hormones drop, then everything in the body slows down. Temperature drops, energy levels tanks, skin quality degrades, joints deteriorate faster, digestion slows and digestive issues develop.
During childhood and adolescence, hypothyroidism causes growth arrest resulting in epiphyseal dysgenesis and severely delayed bone age. Thyroxine (T4) replacement results in ‘catch-up’ growth, although full predicted final height may not be reached, especially when the diagnosis and treatment of hypothyroidism are delayed (R).
T3, the active thyroid hormone, is indispensable for chondrocyte regeneration and hypertrophy (R).
Insufficient T3 production and joint recovery suffers.
Here are a few tips on how to optimize your thyroid function.
Optimize IGF-1 levels
IGF-1 is another anabolic growth factor in the joints. Too little IGF-1 and joint recovery is slowed.
Growth hormone is normally converted to IGF-1 in the body. Insulin, T3 and caloric surplus increases IGF-1 levels.
Low protein intake, low carb diets, fasting, excessive cardio, poor sleep, vitamin and mineral deficiency, low androgens, low thyroid hormones, legumes, royal jelly, glucosamine, bilberry, luteolin, curcumin, resveratrol, lycopene, green tea, boron, genistein and lower IGF-1 levels (R).
Milk, red meat, organ meat rich in vitamins and minerals, zinc, magnesium, DHEA, colostrum, blueberry, vitamin C, calcium, saturated fat (such as the fat from red meat and dairy), selenium and cinnamon can increase IGF-1 (R).
For optimal joint maintenance and recovery, here is what I would do.
- Eat a good diet consisting of red meat, organ meat (such as heart, liver, kidney, brains, etc), eggs, milk, gelatin, some starches and lots of fruit.
- Make sure my glycogen stores are always full before, during and after each session by drink fruit smoothies or fruit juice. If you experience sinus, excessive fatigue and inflammation after a workout, consider taking colostrum pre-workout.
- Apply 20-50mg topical magnesium on each ankle and knee joint.
- Apply 10mg progesterone to each joint and take Kion flex when they hurt or feel achy.
- Use red and infrared light after each workout on the joints.
- Take warm baths with sodium bicarbonate and Epsom salt.
- Use the EarthPulse device each night.
- Inject BPC-157 locally when I feel like I hurt myself and do blood flow restriction exercises.
- Optimizing sleep quality
As always, thanks so much for reading my article. Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions. And if you found this article to be insightful and helpful please like and share so this information can help others as well.
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